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Steelers Transactions

Steelers Place ILB Vince Williams on COVID-19 Reserve List

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The Steelers have placed inside linebacker Vince Williams on the COVID-19 reserve list, the team announced on Thursday afternoon.

Williams, 30, is in his eighth season with the team and had started all 12 games for the Steelers this season at inside linebacker. He will miss the team’s Sunday night game against the Buffalo Bills.

The COVID-19 list is both for players that have tested positive and for those that must isolate due to exposure to a positive case. Players that test positive with symptoms must sit out at least 10 days. Other can return in as soon as five days.

Inside linebacker has been a position of significant absences for the Steelers this season. Fellow starter Devin Bush was lost for the season to an ACL injury and was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 23 and will miss the rest of the season.

Backup Ulysees Gilbert III was placed on the injured reserve list on Nov. 4 with a back injury and just began his return to practice on Wednesday. Fellow backup Robert Spillane, who started seven games in place of Bush, suffered a knee injury in Monday evening’s loss to Washington and did not practice on Wednesday.

That leaves the Steelers with veteran Avery Williamson, who has played in four games since coming over from the New York Jets in a trade on Nov. 2 following Bush’s injury, and converted safety Marcus Allen, as the only inside linebackers on the team.

Second-year pro Tegray Scales is on the practice squad. He has never played an NFL game.

Williams is the second Steelers player on the COVID-19 reserve list, joining starting center Maurkice Pouncey, who could be eligible to come off the list before the Steelers visit Buffalo.

Steelers Transactions

Former Steelers QB Devlin Hodges Signs with LA Rams

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Former Steelers starting quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges has signed a future contract with the Los Angeles Rams for the 2021 season, he announced on Twitter on Sunday.

Hodges signed with the Steelers in 2019 on a rookie camp tryout out of Samford. He earned a contract at rookie camp and impressed in training camp, causing the team to feel comfortable trading third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville.

After injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph, Hodges was pushing into service, playing in eight games and starting six for the team in 2019.

Hodges threw for 1,063 yards while completing 62.5% of his passes. He threw for five touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 71.4 quarterback rating. The Steelers went 3-3 in games Hodges started.

After the Steelers re-acquired Josh Dobbs in the 2020 offseason, Hodges was bumped to fourth on the team’s depth chart and was not activated at any point during the 2020 season.

The Steelers replaced Hodges by signing former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins to a reserve/future contract last week.

Hodges, wide receiver Deon Cain, running back Wendell Smallwood and kicker Matthew Wright were the only four players that finished the season on the Steelers’ practice squad that were not retained by the team.

Cain has signed with the Baltimore Ravens, while Wright has inked a contract to join then Detroit Lions.

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Steelers Transactions

Former Steelers Kicker Matthew Wright Sings with Detroit Lions

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Steelers practice squad kicker Matthew Wright has signed with the Detroit Lions for the 2021 season.

Wright, who was one of four practice squad players whose contracts the Steelers allowed to expire, signed a reserve/future contract with the Lions on Friday.

Wright played in three games for the Steelers in 2020, filling in for Chris Boswell, who was injured on two separate occasions. He made 7 of 7 extra points and 4 of 4 field goals, but struggled with his depth on kickoffs.

The Steelers initially signed Wright as a rookie free agent out of UCF in 2019, but he was released at the end of training camp. They did not bring him back for training camp this season, but signed him to the practice squad on Dec. 8 after a few consecutive weeks of tryouts, as an insurance policy for Boswell.

The Lions could have a vacancy this season at kicker as 36-year-old Matt Prater is a free agent and coming off his worst season in over a decade. Prater made 21 of 28 field goals for a 75% conversion rate, his worst since 2008. All of Prater’s misses were from over 40 yards.

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Steelers Transactions

Steelers TE Vance McDonald Retires

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Steelers tight end Vance McDonald will retire after eight NFL seasons, the team announced on Friday.

McDonald, 30, spent the last four seasons with the Steelers as the team’s primary starting tight end.

“My family and I are so grateful for everything NFL football has provided us in our life — all the memories both good and the difficult, the relationships and friends we’ve made along the way, the life lessons the game provided both me and my loved ones,” McDonald said in a team press release. “It’s always been our dream and mission to leverage the platform given us through the NFL to help serve and uplift others along the way, and we will continue to find ways to serve others as we begin this next chapter of our lives. I am proud to retire a Steeler.”

Since joining the team in a trade from San Francisco before the 2017 season, McDonald started 47 games in Pittsburgh, catching 117 passes for 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns. 

McDonald will finish his eight-year career with 2,036 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns after being selected by the 49ers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Rice.

In 2020, McDonald had yielded significant playing time to Eric Ebron at tight end, playing less than 50% of the team’s offensive snaps when healthy for the first time with the Steelers. Ebron played in 69.7% of the team’s offensive snaps compared to 44% for McDonald.

McDonald was a likely salary cap casualty as the Steelers entered the offseason an estimated $35 million over the cap. His retirement will save the team $5.2 million in cap obligations for 2021 before replacement. The Steelers will carry a $2.7 million dead cap hit this season to pay off a 2020 contract restructuring.

This season, McDonald was recognized for his work in the community as the Steelers’ nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

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